Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

21.11.08

How Aggressively Will the New Administration Address Global Warming? If this administration gets its hands dirty with energy and climate issues — and it looks as if it sure plans to — we are in for a very interesting four years

Here is another example of a useful commentary in understanding where policy might be headed


http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/21/how-aggressively-will-the-new-administration-address-global-warming/

How Aggressively Will the New Administration Address Global Warming?
By STEPHEN J. DUBNER
Very, it would seem.
This isn't exactly a surprise. Obama campaigned hard on the subject. But a couple of personnel moves in recent days suggest that, despite the cratering economy, the administration is also eager to tackle the energy/global warming issues.
The first move is the ouster of John Dingell as chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, to be replaced by Henry Waxman.
Both men are Democrats, but Dingell is from the old school, and from Michigan, with a reputation for being auto-industry friendly; Waxman, from California, is an avowed environmentalist. (To be reductive: Dingell is gas-powered while Waxman is wind-powered.) Between this switch and the rejection (for now) of the Big Three's plea for Congressional aid, the gas-burning car paradigm looks headed for a shift.
Also interesting is the expected appointment of Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget. As director of the Congressional Budget Office, Orszag has been, among other things, a blogger. Here are his posts on climate change; and here's a presentation he recently made at Wellesley College on the subject. Here's his summary of the basic science:
+ Virtually impossible to account for 20th-century changes in climate without attributing a significant but uncertain share to anthropogenic G.H.G. emissions.
+ Only about half of warming already set in motion has occurred to this point.
+ Much more warming than that is likely, however,
- Reducing emissions from current levels would still mean rising concentration.
It is statements like these that have gotten Orszag called an alarmist.
If this administration gets its hands dirty with energy and climate issues — and it looks as if it sure plans to — we are in for a very interesting four years, to say the least. If nothing else, it will be nice to hear some policy arguments that incorporate lots of economic and scientific material.




November 21, 2008
Longtime Head of House Energy Panel Is Ousted
By JOHN M. BRODER

WASHINGTON — Representative Henry A. Waxman of California ousted Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan from his post as chairman of the influential Committee on Energy and Commerce on Thursday, giving President-elect Barack Obama an advantage in his plans to promote efforts to combat global warming.

By a secret vote of 137 to 122, House Democrats ended Mr. Dingell's nearly 28-year reign as his party's top member on the committee. In doing so, Mr. Waxman's backers upended the seniority system to install a leader more in tune with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a variety of issues.

Although Ms. Pelosi did not formally endorse Mr. Waxman, members of the Democratic caucus understood that she could have stopped him if she had wished. The incoming Obama administration had also signaled its direction when it named Philip Schiliro, a longtime and loyal aide to Mr. Waxman, as the new White House director of Congressional relations.

Besides seating a committed environmentalist as head of the energy committee, the vote also removes one of the auto industry's best friends from a key leadership post — further evidence of how much power the American car-makers, whose executives have been pleading for federal money, have lost in Congress.

The vote on Thursday morning reportedly surprised some Dingell supporters, who had expected Mr. Dingell to prevail despite Wednesday's 25-to-22 vote by the Democrats' Steering and Policy Committee in favor of Mr. Waxman's challenge.

Mr. Dingell has been the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce committee since 1981 and has been in Congress since 1955, having won his seat in a special election after his father died in office. In February, Mr. Dingell will become the longest-serving member in the history of the House.

Speaker Pelosi, who has often clashed with Mr. Dingell, particularly on environmental matters, leads the steering committee, which includes the entire House leadership. Ms. Pelosi backed a candidate who opposed Mr. Dingell in a Democratic primary in 2002, but she has remained officially neutral in the Dingell-Waxman brawl. The steering committee vote was conducted in secret.

The chairmanship of the Committee on Energy and Commerce is a key post, since the committee will handle legislation on climate change, energy and health care that President-elect Obama is hoping to move through the new Congress.

Mr. Waxman, who has been the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, was backed by many environmentalists for his stands on clean air and global warming, and he has a long record of leadership on health care issues.

Environmental groups reacted swiftly and mostly positively to the ascension of Mr. Waxman. "Chairman Waxman has been a leader on global warming for many years, and we look forward to working closely with him in his new role," said Karen Wayland, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Mr. Dingell has also shepherded numerous environmental and health care bills through Congress in his decades of service. He has sponsored universal health care legislation in every session of Congress since he was first elected. Both men are considered hard-driving chairmen, but Mr. Waxman is generally regarded as more liberal than Mr. Dingell, and has sponsored tougher global warming legislation. Mr. Dingell's backers argued, unsuccessfully, that he was more likely to knit together a broad coalition of labor, industry and environmentalists in fashioning a climate change bill.

Mr. Waxman, 69, ran a low-key campaign for the post, in part because his challenge upsets the seniority system in the House and in part because Mr. Dingell, at 82, has had a number of health problems, including recent knee-replacement surgery.

Mr. Waxman said through a spokesman on Wednesday that he was a better leader to push Mr. Obama's agenda through Congress.

"I am running for the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee because we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance health care, achieve energy independence and tackle climate change," he said in a statement. "These are difficult and contentious issues, and I believe I can provide effective leadership so that Congress and the new administration working together can deliver results for the American people."

Meanwhile, House Republicans picked their leadership team Wednesday, keeping Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio at their helm, favoring him over Representative Dan Lungren of California, who mounted a last-minute challenge. Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, who is considered a rising star in the party, will be the No. 2 Republican, and Representative Mike Penceof Indiana, a leader of the conservative bloc, will take over at No. 3. Mr. Cantor and Mr. Pence were not opposed.

In his remarks to the Republicans, Mr. Boehner said two straight elections with significant losses had provided Republicans with an opportunity to get themselves back on track if they come up with innovative approaches, promote reform and strike the right tone in expressing their opposition to a government controlled by Democrats.

"In recent years Americans lost faith in us, stopped believing we are what we claim to be," Mr. Boehner told his colleagues. "There are various views on why. Some blame President Bush. Others blame Congressional Republicans and our own actions during our 12 years in the majority. While there are many views on why Americans lost their faith, we're unanimous on one thing: it's time to win it back."

The House Republican caucus has so far balked at a chance to meet with Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the former House Democratic strategist who has been named the new White House chief of staff. Mr. Emanuel, who has been reaching out to Congressional Republicans since his selection as chief of staff, is set to meet on Thursday with some Senate Republican leaders and individually with some House Republicans.

Carl Hulse and David Stout contributed reporting.

19.11.08

Inside the Transition: Meet members of the Energy & Environment Policy Transition Team

An "inside" look at how the new US administration is looking at Environmental issues, might give us an idea what the upcoming policy decisions might look like.

Thanks to Mathilde for the link

http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/inside_the_transition_meet_the_energy_environment_policy_transition_team/

18.11.08

Obama vows to engage world on climate change: Obama said his administration would establish annual targets that would aim to reduce emission levels to 1990 levels by 2020

Obama vows to engage world on climate change
1 hour ago
BEVERLY HILLS, California (AFP) — US president-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday vowed he would "engage vigorously" in global climate change talks and that denial was no longer an acceptable response to global warming.
Obama said in a surprise video message to an international conference on climate change hosted by five US state governors here that he would show new leadership on the issue as soon as he takes office in January.
The president-elect also addressed his message directly to delegates at United Nations climate change talks in Poland next month.
"While I won't be president at the time of your meeting and while the United States has only one president at a time, I've asked members of Congress who are attending the conference as observers to report back to me on what they learn there," Obama said.
"And once I take office, you can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.
"Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious."
Obama said his administration would establish annual targets that would aim to reduce emission levels to 1990 levels by 2020, an ambitious goal that has already been adopted by California.
Obama's comments came at the opening of a two-day conference hosted by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to discuss and develop strategies aimed at combating climate change.
Republican Schwarzenegger, who has repeatedly clashed with the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush over climate change and environmental issues, welcomed Obama's remarks.
"I'm very, very happy," Schwarzenegger told delegates, many of whom had cheered during Obama's taped speech.
"It's very important for our country, because we have been the biggest polluters in the world, it's about time that we as a country recognize that and work together with other nations to fight global warming."
Schwarzenegger also praised Obama's pledge to follow California's lead on cutting emissions levels. "This administration will adopt our regulations, and our laws. This is fantastic because we want to lead the way," he said.
Schwarzenegger is among five US governors co-hosting the event, along with the governors of Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin and Florida.
The conference also featured some 800 officials from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom.
Schwarzenegger has made the environment a key issue of his second term in California and signed a historic bill in 2006 that saw California become the first in the nation to impose limits on global warming gases.
Under the plan, California will aim to slash the state's carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent by the year 2020, a figure that Schwarzenegger has said is equivalent to removing 6.5 million vehicles from the road.
On Monday, Schwarzenegger set a new target for California of securing 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
The state had already set a goal of acquiring 20 percent of its electricity from sources such as wind and solar by 2010.